October 4, 2011 For immediate release
On October 4th, 2011, Harvard students as part of a group of Canadian and US human rights advocates, doctors, public health experts, and journalists released an extensively researched white paper reviewing and evaluating the record of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH) and recommending the withdrawal of the force from Haiti. The white paper release comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of MINUSTAH due to high profile human rights abuses and widespread anti‐MINUSTAH sentiment in Haiti. The United Nations Security Council’s meeting to renew MINUSTAH’s mandate for the next year is scheduled for October 15th, 2011.
The white paper describes the historical and legal underpinnings of MINUSTAH’s mandate and its political context, while thoroughly reviewing its human rights record since the 2010 earthquake. Human rights violations perpetrated by the force include sexual violence, violent responses to political protests, and the introduction of cholera into Haiti followed by the failure to accept responsibility or offer adequate resources for cholera treatment, prevention, and compensation to victims’ families. Beyond these direct abuses, MINUSTAH has also violated its mandate through failure to protect the internally displaced from forced evictions and gender‐based violence, poor security coordination and lack of communication with Haitian groups, and subversion of democratic processes by failing to respond to significant irregularities during the recent presidential elections.
Co‐author Deepa Panchang noted, “The white paper project emerged because our Haitian partners were angry and frustrated with MINUSTAH’s widespread human rights violations in Haiti, yet these violations were not being documented in a systematic way and MINUSTAH was not being held accountable for them. Our goal for the white paper was to present an accessible and accurate report to influence decision‐making going forward.” Panchang is an alumna of the Harvard School of Public Health.
“The cholera epidemic has been an entirely manmade and preventable disaster for Haiti. Especially given the role of MINUSTAH in bringing this epidemic to Haiti, the significant allocation of funding to MINUSTAH while the cholera response remains underfunded is problematic to say the least,” co‐author Rishi Rattan of Physicians for Haiti added.
With this in mind, the white paper seeks to shed light on the current human rights abuses occurring at the hands of MINUSTAH and spark critical debate about whether the international community can continue to justify the increasingly high human cost of the mission.
“With the continuous stream of human rights violations attributed to MINUSTAH, if the international community is serious about helping Haiti they will decide that respect for Haitian sovereignty and human rights is incompatible with an extension of the force’s mandate,” said co‐author Kevin Edmonds, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.